The Evolution Of Selfies

It is not just a new form of self-expression but also a way for millions of individuals to showcase their talent, creativity, and experiences

2013 was the year of the selfie. The term was selected as the ‘word of the year’ by the Oxford English Dictionary. Most people believe that the selfie is a relatively modern invention, but the roots of this form of self-expression transcend generations. From the self-portraits of famous artists like Van Gogh to the painstaking efforts of chemist Robert Cornelius and Hippolyte Bayard in capturing a photographic selfie in 1839, its history is long and prosperous. This was followed by the first Polaroids, but selfies didn’t make their way into the domain of art up until Andy Warhol. Myspace ushered in the era of ‘profile photos’ in 2006, which was largely populated by pixelated flip phone images. People are now refashioning the idea into formats like the sleeping selfie, muscle-man selfie, no-makeup selfie, food selfie, and more. Today, 92 million selfies are taken daily, accounting for 4% (2.3 billion) of the photos daily.

In today's social media-dictated world, defined by photos and videos, selfies have taken on a whole new meaning. Selfies are transforming into 'velfies' or selfie videos. It is not just a new form of self-expression but also a way for millions of individuals to showcase their talent, creativity, and experiences. These trends have ushered in a host of allied business areas and sustained earnings for creators. Let’s not forget the importance of accessories like selfie sticks, projected to command a market size of US$671.13 million by the end of 2025, or ring lights and tripods.

This World Social Media Day, let’s reflect on the role and evolution of self-portrayal, aka selfies or velfies, plays in the context of our lives.

● Helps build an engaged community - When you share glimpses of your life through videos, it makes the user feel a part of that experience and helps build a deeper connection. Whereas, in a photo selfie, the viewer sees only a limited side to the creator's personality. Through a video, the audience can hear you, see you, and understand you better. They feel more comfortable interacting with the creator, and each other, which builds a more engaged community.

● Selfies are empowering – It helps you represent yourself in the way you understand your being, thereby appreciating yourself for who you are. It allows room for self-love, especially for people experiencing difficulty expressing themselves and accepting their flaws. Be it their gender, their fitment in society, or anxiety caused by criticism of others and themselves, putting yourself out there requires courage that is liberating and empowering for both the creator and the viewer.

● Impactful storytelling - When capturing a moment or emotion with a velfie, the video has the power to transcend the viewer into the creator’s setting, hence making it an effective tool for storytelling. We tend to believe and trust a person more when we hear and see them speak or represent their views compared to a photo or a written post. Recall on video, and people-led storytelling is far higher.

● It serves as a visual journal – Velfies or selfies from over a period of time give a peek into the creator’s journey. It can be a contemporary take on the journaling format, which helps with introspection and deepens perspectives. This can be further corroborated by the footage of astronauts on extended missions using selfie videos as journals to record their experiences in a volatile environment. Such videos can be immersive and enriching experiences for not only the creator but also the viewer.

With trends moving at a highly accelerated pace, it is tough to envision what selfies will transform themselves into next. It could be a retro revival of the myspace-esque stare into the camera or something extremely long-form where one velfie captures years instead of minutes in every minute detail, documentary style. This art form is here to stay.

*The author is Shashank Shekhar, Sr. Director of Content Strategy and Operations, Moj and ShareChat

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